Accessibility to urban parks and health outcomes at the neighborhood level

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Boyd, Nicholas
Watkins, Kari E.
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This research identifies the correlation between access to urban parks and physical activity and obesity outcomes at the neighborhood level. Using data for New York City, we created a new measure for access to parks called ‘park choice accessibility.’ Park choice accessibility uses a destination choice-derived framework to interact distance to parks and the quality of those parks as defined by their size and other potential amenities. A small park very close to a neighborhood can have an impact on health outcomes, but a larger park at a similar distance may have an even larger impact. Similarly, a large park can be further away and still have an impact on health outcomes. We assess whether park choice accessibility is associated with increased physical activity or decreased prevalence of obesity at the neighborhood level, controlling for spatially correlated and endogenous effects in addition to socioeconomic covariates such as age, marital status, income, and educational attainment. Our results suggest that there is no statistically significant relationship between park access and obesity prevalence. However, better park access is associated with a marginal increase in physical activity, suggesting that improving park access throughout cities may serve as a pathway toward achieving physical activity benchmarks.
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